Cape Town - The successful repositioning of The Laser Group, the business services outsourcing specialist, paid off handsomely in its first year, with net profit increasing 138 percent to R16,04 million and turnover doubling to R321,8 million on an annualised basis for the 12 months to March.

Headline earnings a share were nigh spot on earlier management forecasts at 70,8c compared with 37,2c the previous year. Laser changed its financial year-end and today reported audited results for the 18 months to March. No dividend was declared to retain cash for growth opportunities.

Michael Fuller, the chief executive, said Laser's results reflected a marked turnaround from the R41,7 million net loss the previous year.

The balance sheet was also far stronger, with long-term, interest-bearing liabilities lower at R19,2 million from R27,1 million. The cash balance position improved to a net R9,6 million, while vendor payments had fallen to R13,7 million from R20 million. As a result the debt-equity ratio improved to 0,25 from 0,34.

Fuller said the strong performance was because of Laser's positioning in high-growth sectors of the economy and the quality of recent acquisitions as well as the management team that had been assembled.

After the year-end Gentia Software SA, which distributes management applications, was acquired for R2,5 million.

Laser aimed to become a provider of outsourced support services, providing multi-service solutions. The group focuses on logistics, supply chain management and human resources.

"We are pleased with where we have got. We managed to build a strong management team and we have yet to lose any vendors, which means we have managed to integrate our businesses well," said Fuller.

Commercial Finance Company (CFC), a listed investment holding company, recently acquired a 34 percent stake in Laser. It had endorsed the plan to create an integrated outsourcing services group. The strong financial backing of CFC would also help Laser grow and make further acquisitions.

Discussions on acquisitions in the human resources and logistics side of the business were already under way, Fuller said.

Laser had set aggressive organic growth targets, with the minium growth set at 20 percent, he said. It would also pursue additional avenues to enhance shareholder wealth through mergers and acquisitions.

Its shares rose 27c to R2,62.